IVP - Andy Unedited - Authors and Writing Archives

December 19, 2017

"And Tell the Truth. Tell the Truth."

In a day of fake news, alternative facts, and politicians regularly not just massaging the truth but fabricating it to their own benefit, the work of George Orwell seems like it was written in response to today's news. The writer best known for 1984 and Animal Farm was adamant in his opposition to what he called newspeak--any doublespeak using convoluted and pretentious language to conceal the truth.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:10 AM | Comments (2) are closed

October 24, 2017

Classic Writing Advice from a Dystopian Author

George Orwell published his famous essay "Politics and the English Language" in 1946 while he was working on his dystopian novel 1984. Both deal with the way bureaucracies hide their agendas with convoluted grammar, pretentious word choice and intentional ambiguity. In this way, they conceal the fact that "pacification of the population" actually means "defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets."

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:18 AM | Comments

August 3, 2017

What Writers Most Need to Know

I recently asked my editing, writer, and reader friends, "What do you most wish editors would tell writers (and that writers would take to heart) about writing?" I thought the answers were worthwhile and illuminating. Here are some of the responses I received:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:21 AM | Comments (2) are closed

February 21, 2017

I'll Have a Cliché with a Twist, Please

My wife murders clichés. But because these are unpremeditated, we should probably reduce the charges to manslaughter.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:01 AM | Comments (4)

September 8, 2016

The Pitfalls of Praise and Criticism

"Give someone a book, they'll read for a day. Teach someone how to write a book, they'll experience a lifetime of paralyzing self doubt," Lauren DeStefano tells us.

The psychological, spiritual, emotional pitfalls of writing a book are so numerous and varied it is amazing a word is ever written. And if you do finish and publish, you face a whole new set of issues instigated in equal measure by success and failure, by praise and criticism.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:59 AM | Comments (1) are closed

May 12, 2016

Was Eliot Nuts?

I remember first coming upon T. S. Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and thinking it was completely nuts. I was in high school at the time. So it is a tautology to say I was quite sure of my opinions.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:07 AM

April 7, 2016

The Key Question I Ask Authors

When people hand me a proposal or manuscript for a non-fiction book and ask me for a publishing opinion, we'll talk about a number of issues. But I have one chief diagnostic question. Almost anything and everything an author has to say flows from the answer to this question. It tells writers what kind of vocabulary and images to use, how long the piece should be, how to organize the material, what to leave in, what to take out, and even where to try to publish it.

The question is this:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:09 AM

October 20, 2015

Questions Academic Authors Should Ask (4)

Here are two final questions in my series (see here and here and here) of questions that scholars should be asking about publishing.

What about self-publishing?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:56 AM

October 13, 2015

Questions Academic Authors Should Ask (3)

I've been writing (here and here) about questions scholars should be asking about publishing, but often aren't. Here are a few more.

What about academics writing for a general readership?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:57 AM

October 8, 2015

Questions Academic Authors Should Ask (2)

In my last post I offered a few questions academic authors should be asking before they start thinking about a manuscript. Here are some more.

Aren't simultaneous submissions taboo?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:53 AM

October 6, 2015

Questions Academic Authors Should Ask (1)

Sometimes academic authors come to me as an editor with questions about book publishing. Too often they do not. They simply have their proposed manuscript to present. As a result, they sometimes make missteps on the road to publication. As we approach the season of academic conferences where I will be meeting dozens of prospective authors, here are some questions they should be asking.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:59 AM

May 15, 2015

Ode to On Writing Well

William Zinsser, author of the classic book On Writing Well, died this week. I have recommended his book more often and sold more copies of it than any other of many excellent options. The first hundred pages are a must for anyone writing non-fiction of any kind.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:23 AM

October 29, 2013

How to Kill Off Writing

What's the best way to hurt the local agriculture market in a country full of starving people? Indiscriminantly give away tons of free food. Relief organizations have learned the hard way that if they want to create a self-sustaining market of locally grown produce, they can't always bring in truckloads of rice from other countries.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:46 AM | Comments (8) are closed

June 18, 2013

Stylish Academic Writing 4: A Cup of Cold Water

With so much bad academic writing, we cry, "Paragraphs, paragraphs everywhere, and not a word to read." Yet much academic writing is refreshing and worth savoring. Take Kevin Vanhoozer in Jesus, Paul and the People of God:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:22 AM | Comments (6) are closed

May 8, 2013

Remembering Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard went to be with his Lord this morning. Many people will miss his strong, gentle wisdom, remembering him as someone who was soaked in the presence of Christ. He was a beloved friend and writer to many. We enjoyed publishing a number of titles by Dallas (1935-2013), especially one of his signature books, Hearing God.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:36 AM | Comments (7) are closed

March 12, 2013

Good Prose 3: The Business of Writing

Writers and publishers have always had a love-hate relationship. Mark Twain once offered "the perfect recipe for a modern American publisher" as follows: "Take an idiot from a lunatic asylum and marry him to an idiot woman and the fourth generation of this connection should be a good publisher."*

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:56 AM | Comments (4) are closed

February 13, 2013

A Visit to Our Lawyer

Recently my wife and I were revising our wills. (Don't worry, kids. You're still in.) You see, we figure every twenty years or so we ought to take a look, you know, whether things have changed or not. And, of course, we got all the standard boilerplate stuff from our lawyer. And that was good.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:31 AM

November 20, 2012

Stott's Influence (2): The Life of the Mind

On November 15, 2012, I presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society entitled "John Stott's Influence Through Publishing." I offer it here in five installments. The first installment can be found here.

Second, in addition to promoting constructive engagement with culture, he also (in contrast to much American evangelicalism) promoted an evangelicalism that was decidedly not anti-intellectual. He thoroughly endorsed the life of the mind, most explicitly in Your Mind Matters.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:06 AM

August 22, 2012

How "The Singer" Was Born

Our good friend and beloved IVP author, Calvin Miller, died on August 19. The Singer, published in 1975, became his best-known work. Here, in its entirety, is the preface he wrote to the twenty-fifth-anniversary edition, in which he tells the story of the genesis of what Philip Yancey called "a groundbreaking book."

In the 1960s the rock culture singer 25.jpgsavior made his appearance in New York. Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell opened on Broadway. Before long these musicals had entered common culture all across America. The tunes were memorable, and here and there the lyrics touched the New Testament account of Christ. Still, to me the Broadway Jesus seemed a pale imitation of the New Testament Christ. Someone, I thought, ought to write a creative account of the Christ of St. Matthew that St. Matthew would recognize. It was then that the chilling notion occurred to me: perhaps I was the one to do it.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:20 AM | Comments (3) are closed

February 28, 2012

Pastor Beware (and Writer Too)

I call them preacher stories--those tales that pass from church to church, book to book, blog to blog. Sometimes corny, sometimes profound, they can inspire, accuse, challenge, amuse, surprise or inform.

I recently came across the same story three times, and it made me wonder.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:41 AM | Comments (10) are closed

February 9, 2012

Reaching the World (or Not)

With all the options and advantages for self-publishing print and ebooks, authors are weighing their options these days, wondering what traditional publishers really have to offer. One consideration is selling rights.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:40 AM | Comments (4) are closed

January 20, 2012

Self Publish? You Bet.

Do I, as the editorial director for a traditional print publisher, encourage and support self-publishing--even self-ebook publishing? Yes. I do. Here's why.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:04 AM | Comments (11) are closed

October 20, 2011

Titles That Stick

I always get in trouble when I talk about what makes a great book title. I know people have other opinions, but this is something I happen to be right about.

This time, however, I've got two experts on my side. In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath not only lay out what makes ideas memorable, but (even though they may not know it) they also unveil the principles for a great book title.

Great ideas (and titles) are:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:56 AM | Comments (4) are closed

October 13, 2011

The Curse of Knowledge

Authors and editors know too much. And that goes for speakers, teachers and preachers too. They know too much about the subjects they are presenting. Why is that a bad thing? It's what Chip and Dan Heath, in Made to Stick, call the Curse of Knowledge.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:59 AM | Comments (1) are closed

March 1, 2011

Is Personality Destiny?

Many writers and editors identify themselves as introverts. Consequently they often become intimidated, in some cases petrified, by the "social" requirements of writing and editing. They think they have limited resources available to them to compete in the often extroverted world of publishing. They absolve themselves from the responsibilities of championing their projects or interacting with readers. They think (or act like) personality is destiny.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:37 AM | Comments (4) are closed

June 1, 2010

That's Unheard Of!

Everybody does it. Besides that, it's not wrong. In fact, sometimes it can be a beautiful thing. No, I'm not talking about that! I'm talking about ending sentences with a preposition.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:50 AM | Comments (1) are closed

April 28, 2010

Miss Whitebread Was Wrong

“Always make an outline before you start writing.” Isn’t that what your fifth grade teacher told you? Well, I’m sorry to break this to you, but Miss Whitebread was wrong. In my continuing series of Stupid Things You Were Taught in School (see here and here), let me deconstruct this bad boy.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:20 AM | Comments (16) are closed

April 6, 2010

All Writing Is Autobiography

All writing is autobiography.

Fiction. Non-fiction. Quasifictional-semirealistic-self-congratualtory historical narrative. It's all autobiography.

Obviously memoir, journals, travelogues and a lot of bad poetry are autobiographical.

But what about auto-repair manuals?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:57 AM | Comments (1) are closed

December 1, 2009

Who Will Own the Copyright?

I am neither a lawyer nor the son of a lawyer (though I am the father of a lawyer). So I am legally unqualified to give you any advice about anything (enough for the disclaimer). But I get asked questions.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 6:50 AM

November 17, 2009

Thaw Out Your Brain

Coming up with good, new ideas is the hardest thing I do. Some people seem to have a hundred ideas a day. Often they are entrepreneurs driving their people nuts with their lack of focus, and usually most of their ideas are bad. But if one percent are good, that's one good idea a day--a very impressive output!

What about the rest of us? How can we get creative?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:49 AM

April 16, 2009

Strunk and White at 50

I'd better write this blog very carefully, omitting all needless words.

Today we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the release of The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, affectionally shorthanded by its disciples as Strunk & White. In an age of chronic blogging, constant Facebook updating and compulsive Twittering, we need fewer words more than ever. No doubt Strunk and White have saved us from millions.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:40 AM | Comments (6) are closed

January 14, 2009

A Bold, Exciting Career

A woman in Indianapolis wanted to interview me. Well, it wasn't actually even as grand as that. She wanted her kids to interview me.

She had a project for her children to interview people in different lines of work to see how they got there. What were their interests when they were the age of her kids? What steps got them from there into a line of work that really fit who they were?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:36 AM

November 25, 2008

Should Book Editors Be Writers?

One of our long-term veteran editors, Linda Doll (and my coauthor of Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength.), used to tell interns and employees alike in the editorial department that if you wanted to be a writer you came to the wrong place. A book editor's job is to edit. If you want to write, fine--do that on your own time. But don't expect to have your cravings, yearnings, desires and dreams for writing fulfilled at the office. A harsh dose of reality? Perhaps. But reality nonetheless.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:19 AM

November 14, 2008

Ban the Next Book Clause

Every so often I am talking to an author about a potential book and he or she will say, “Well, I will have to check with my previous publisher first. In my contract I gave them first option on my next book.”

I am always amazed when I hear this. We got rid of the “next book clause” from our contracts thirty years ago. I thought such arrangements disappeared with the era of the dime novel. Apparently not.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:47 AM

October 6, 2008

The Perfect Recipe for a Modern American Publisher

One of my favorite quotes about publishing comes from John Tebbel's Between Covers. Tebbel recounts a conversation Mark Twain had with Frank Nelson Doubleday, in which Twain offered "the perfect recipe for a modern American publisher":

Take an idiot from a lunatic asylum and marry him to an idiot woman and the fourth generation of this connection should be a good publisher. (p. 138)

As Tebbel's book chronicles, there is a long, tension-filled and hilarious history of the relationship between authors and publishers. Many examples of strong, constructive and congenial relationships populate the past as well. I suspect that publishing is no more subject to these dynamics than any other endeavor involving more than one human being.

If it is more volatile, perhaps it is due to the often subjective nature of publishing. Predicting sales (and thus advances and royalties) is an art, not a science--thus it can be a point of tension. Knowing how and when to revise a manuscript is an art, not a science--thus also a point of potential tension.

Books have also been compared to being an author's "baby." There is a protective, parental concern that can hover over this toddler. As a parent's identity is wrapped up with what children say or how they perform, the same can be true with an author and their book. Publishers and editors and marketers are wise to take note of these factors.

I like the idea of working in partnership with authors, as a team. We each have strengths to bring to the table and seek to establish a mutual trust that focuses on doing what is best for everyone and for the book. Is that ideal? Perhaps. But it's an ideal that's worth the effort.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 12:25 PM

June 3, 2008

Print-on-Demand Soars

We've been talking about this here for sometime. Publishers Weekly recently confirmed the trend. Print-on-demand books are increasing massively.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:40 AM | Comments (2) are closed

May 15, 2008

Liking Grammar

There is a misconception abroad that white folk have no ethnic culture. We are, well, plain vanilla folk who lack the distinctive zest and pizazz of other groups. Not so. Here is a fun eye-opener squashing that myth which folks in publishing will no doubt especially enjoy.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:27 AM

May 7, 2008

Great Production

"Design, production, and manufacturing, in many publishing houses, are not considered as glamorous as editorial or sales, and may be looked upon a secondary. They should be viewed as quite the reverse," says publishing guru Tom Woll (p. 161). Why? Well, how many times have design and production saved editorial's and marketing’s behind when an author was late or a book needed to come out early? How many times has great jacket design made customers give a second look at something new? And how much money has been saved by shrewd print buyers?

Woll rightly points out, however, that it is unwise and unfair for others always to rely on production to bear the burden of fixing problems. When it comes to scheduling, one guideline we’ve implemented with some success is this: Do not schedule a book for publication until the revised manuscript is in hand.

That could sound draconian, but it works. Why? Authors may not always meet their deadlines because they are not employees of the publisher. So editors, as peers, have a limited set of tools they can use in working with authors to stay on schedule. But authors always want to know, "When will my book come out?" (Not so subtle subtext: "the sooner the better.")

Typically the answer would be, “In nine to twelve months.” By saying it can be scheduled only when the final draft is in hand puts responsibility (and motivation) properly in the author’s hands.

Exceptions? Certainly. A big upcoming event for which the book must be available. A big-name author whose bestseller is wanted by marketing (and probably finance) for this fiscal year. But those should be exceptions, not the rule.

That’s just one idea for trying to deal with the scheduling dragon. Any other good ideas out there?

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:45 AM

April 30, 2008

The Joys of Coauthoring

One colleague said I seemed to be pretty negative about coauthoring when I wrote about that here recently. Since I have coauthored five books myself, I suppose one could suppose a certain autobiographical slant to my comments. That has not been the case. I coauthored three Bible study guides with my wife, another with my wife and a friend, and Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength. with my former coworker at IVP, Linda Doll. Each was a very enjoyable experience with minimal problems.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:04 AM | Comments (2) are closed

April 23, 2008

The Myths of Coauthoring

It’s a myth that coauthoring is easier than single authoring.

What every editor knows and few authors know is the myth of coauthoring. The myth stated simply is: Coauthoring is better, easier, quicker and less work than single authoring a book. The myth is false on almost all counts. Yet it persists. Why?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 12:11 PM | Comments (1) are closed

March 24, 2008

Copyright: Sell or Rent?

Copyright is one of the more difficult and complicated concepts to wrap your mind around. That’s largely because it has to do with an intangible object—intellectual property. Over the years I’ve tried a variety of ways to explain it to authors and others. Here’s one of the best I’ve used.

Copyright is like real estate. If you own a piece of property, there are two things you can do with it to get some dinero. First, you can sell the property. Second, you can rent it.

If you sell the property, you are relinquishing all rights to the property in exchange for some greenbacks. The new owner may build a skyscraper on the land and make a gazillion samoleans (or lose same). In either case, it has nothing to do with you. You are not helped or harmed because you have no legal interest in the land anymore.

If you rent the property, you agree to allow someone to use the land for a certain amount of time for certain purposes in exchange for an agreed amount of shekels. But since you have transfered certain rights to the renter, you can’t just do anything with the property you choose. You can’t rent it out to someone else at the same time figuring you can get twice the rent. You can’t tear down the building on the property. At the same time you still have certain obligations. Likely you have to keep the building in good repair. In any case you still own the land.

With copyright you can also sell or rent. A work for hire is like selling your land. You transfer full, irrevocable ownership of and rights to the work you've created to someone else for some dead presidents. The new owner may make a mint or may crash and burn. You aren’t helped or hurt by this because you no longer have any rights in it.

Work for hire agreements are often used with employees (who get their salary in exchange for the intellectual property they create on the job). Freelancers often sign a work for hire agreement to do some work that is part of a larger work or collection.

You can also rent your copyright. You transfer certain rights for a certain period of time. But again, after having signed such a “rental” agreement, you can’t do anything you like with it. In many book contracts, all rights are transferred from the creator to the “renter” (or publisher). Now the publisher can exploit the work in a variety of ways and is obligated to compensate you, the creator, as agreed. You are limited in what you can do on your own with the work by the terms of the publishing agreement you have signed.

Now the work itself may be copyrighted in your name (indicating that you are the owner), but because of your (rental) publishing agreement, what happens to your work is now in the hands of another until the agreement comes to an end. That could happen when the work goes out of print or when some other event happens as defined in the agreement, such as the publisher failing to fulfill certain terms of the agreement.

So real estate and copyright. The analogy works for me. What about you?

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:50 AM

February 11, 2008

The Voice of Experience

I believe it was The New Yorker that ran a cartoon depicting a stereotypical, balding, blue-suited executive sitting behind a large desk with an earnest, young, stubble-bearded creative-type standing in front of him imploringly. The executive says, "Your job is to propose. My job is to pooh-pooh."

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:26 AM | Comments (1) are closed

January 24, 2008

Stories Are the Point

Bob Harvey, my former pastor, told the congregation in a sermon about the time he was on vacation at a lake, sitting in a giant inner tube when suddenly and unexpectedly he lost his balance and found himself upside down in the water, still stuck in the tube. As a man with a few extra pounds on his frame, he was unable to get out and right himself. While he was underwater trying to figure out what to do, he told us, he thought, You know, this will make a good sermon illustration.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:15 AM

November 19, 2007

The Dark Side of Platform

Be careful what you wish for.

Publishing is becoming like real estate. Only three things matter. Platform. Platform. Platform. It seems to be a requirement that to publish a book authors must be well-known or be on the speaking circuit or have a deep network of potential readers to tap into once the book is published. A high-platform author is the dream of every publisher. Or is it the nightmare?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:57 AM | Comments (1) are closed

November 8, 2007

The Writer's Dream

America is the land of infinite opportunities. We can all be whatever we want to be, shape our own identity, pursue any career path, even create our own gods. Certainly there is a great deal of opportunity and possibility in America, but as a recent Chicago Tribune article suggests, it is not infinite. There can come a time when we need to give up on a dream--if only, in true American style, to pursue a different dream.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:09 AM | Comments (2) are closed

October 19, 2007

Extreme Makeover: Vanity Publishing Edition

Vanity publishing. It even sounds a bit sleazy, doesn't it? Paying a "publisher" to print and distribute your work has always had negative connotations in publishing. If a legitimate firm won't produce your book, there must be something wrong with it. Right? Either it is commercially unviable or editorially substandard. It means someone is doing it just to satisfy their vanity.

No more. Vanity publishing has had an extreme makeover.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:59 AM

September 26, 2007

They Just Love My Title

"I asked five friends, and they all told me they loved the title I'm thinking of for the book."

"I randomly surveyed a dozen people at the mall and most liked my title best."

"I've been speaking on this topic lately, and when I mention my working title for the book, I get a very positive response."

Over the years we at InterVarsity Press have heard many variations on this theme from authors. They mention their working title to friends, relatives, coworkers or people in the intended audience, and the reaction they get leads them to believe they have a winner. And they might. But why should a publisher be cautious about such a conclusion? Why should an author also be cautious about such a conclusion?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 12:03 PM | Comments (2) are closed

September 23, 2007

Publishers Don't Sell Books

"Publishers don't sell books. Authors sell books."

I was with a group of editors last week. Roy Carlisle, who has been an editor at HarperSanFrancisco (now HarperOne), Crossroad and his own imprint, was making a presentation and was getting just slightly off topic. But he was passionate nonetheless. "An author has got to have a platform. That's what has been true in New York for the last five or ten years. It's what every editor there knows."

Publishers don't sell books? How do they stay in business?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 1:19 PM

September 6, 2007

Keeping Promises

Some years ago we promised an author that if he signed his book contract with us that we would advertise the book in several key magazines. So he signed the contract, completed the manuscript and sent it in. It was a strong piece, and we were happy to publish it. However, we also discovered that it did not come to us very well targeted for the particular audiences of the magazines in which we had promised to advertise the book. As we discussed the audience for his book and possible revisions with the author, he was not inclined to make any significant changes.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:05 AM

August 14, 2007

Stott's Lasting Legacy

John Stott has had a relationship with InterVarsity Press for half a century. You can read more of my thoughts on Stott's legacy in Behind the Books.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:11 AM

July 2, 2007

The First-Book Syndrome

The other day one of our editors, Dave Zimmerman, came to me with a proposal from a prospective author for a book. It was on prayer, mission, evangelism, the history of global Christianity, the future of Christianity, the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God and justice.

I looked at Dave and said, “First-Book Syndrome.” He grimly nodded in agreement.

What is First-Book Syndrome?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:55 AM | Comments (1) are closed

June 25, 2007

Why Publishers Rely on Authors More Than Ever

Recently an author told me, “After I finished writing my book, I thought my job was done. I then discovered that my job was only half done.”

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:59 AM

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Get to Know IVP

book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.